Scrum Master: Role or Responsibility?


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  • A scrum master is not a single role, it is a combination of multiple roles.
  • Scrum Master is not assessed by the output of the team. There may be a ship captain to forces the team to work day and night to reach the new land, and another captain who motivates them to find the new land and then another and another. A good scrum master is the one who motivates the team to reach amazing results and be proud about them.
    Source of this analogy:
    Source: This quote was used in reference to the Scrum Master role by Frank Janisch, agile practitioner from Germany. His excellent prezi deck on this topic (which is the source for the second quote) can be viewed at:
  • The Scrum Team (developers & Testers) is the car itself, ready to speed along in whatever direction it is pointed.
    The Product Owner is the driver, making sure that the car is always going in the right direction.
    The Scrum Master enables the team to race with high-quality speed, removing obstacles and ensuring smooth execution of the agile process.
    Image source:
  • At KTP, we are defining scrum master role in a sequential way. We defined the role, updated hiring documents, discussed training, certification, and coaching for scrum masters, and now we are approaching another important milestone: how do we define scrum master career path.
    Image source:
  • Scrum Master career progression is an open topic. There is not much consensus in the industry:
    “Consider asking people what titles they'd prefer (rather than telling them what they can have). “
    “The wording and use of Titles can be subject to continuous improvement as well, just as anything else, right? ”
    “We are not the title. We are not a single "role". We can (and should) grow. Too much emphasis on titles may indicate some peculiar politics at play. How is respect for excellence shown in your organization?”
    ”My apologies if I am being a bit straightforward but, In Scrum plainspeak, Scrum Master is a role and not a designation. Making Scrum master a career path means we are diluting the very meaning of the SMs role, that of being a role without authority. ”
    “My advice has been to not play with the title of SM and rather have designations change if the need be. e.g. you can have Jr consultant ( who is also a SM) , a Consultant ( who acts as a SM) and may be a Sr Consultant ( in a coach role) ”
  • Scrum Alliance and hierarchies of certifications.
    Below is the phylosophy: “As a matter of principle, feels that certification should only be granted to individuals who have demonstrated an acceptable level of knowledge on an assessment. As a result, all of our certification granting assessments have stringent requirements for passing before a certification is granted.
    We also feel that certification should be available to all those who possess a particular level of knowledge -- not only to those who have taken a class. As a result, we offer the option of Professional Scrum Master (PSM) I and II certification to the public -- not only to those who have taken the Professional Scrum Master course.” Source:
    Source for Scrum Alliance certification information:
  • Is Scrum Master a role that can be circulated on a team or it should be a dedicated position?
    in my perception, Scrum Master is not a role that any stakeholder can play. At Kaplan Test Prep, we have a standard job description for a Scrum Master which lists pre-requisites for knowledge, skills, and experience, but most important part of a Scrum Master interview are the scenarios, or situational questions that I ask Scrum Masters to better understand how they make decisions, respond to difficult situations, resolve conflicts, and motivate and inspire their teams (
    I have also witnessed multiple examples of successful teams that did not have a separate title for a Scrum Master. In those cases, one of the team members would become a designated Scrum Master. I’ve seen a business analyst, dev lead, or one of the cross-functional team members being a Scrum Master on a team. In these cases, the team perceives Scrum Master as one of the cross-functional team members, and the other team members relate with this person eagerly. In all successful cases, Scrum Master is a natural leader on the team, effective communicator, and is respected by the team members as being knowledgeable and fair. So similar to a dedicated Scrum Master, this scenario is about values, not about responsibilities and tasks.
    Perhaps there is a difference depending on whether you're an organization transitioning vs. one starting up with agile principles as part of it's DNA.
    Explanation of rotating snakes illusion:
  • Scrum master is a servant leader. However, the titles reflect the level of experience and skills. It is similar to SM certification progression.
  • How do we develop scrum masters:
    Scrum master roadmap
    360 feedback
    functional management support on an ongoing basis
    Scrum master forum
    SoS, IRT
    events that we do (both internal and external) to develop our SMs
  • “Ladder” is a traditional (vertical) career progression; however, the career landscape is changing. Organizations become flatter; work becomes increasingly virtual, collaborative, and dispersed. Careers zig and zag. As a result, “lattice” career model is better suited for today’s global business where employees do not need a vertical progression to be defined anymore.
    Source: The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work” by Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson. – Harvard Business Press, Aug 3, 2010
  • Values come first and the rest (experience, technical knowledge, familiarity with specific Agile tools) come next.
  • Image source:
  • Scrum Master: Role or Responsibility?

    1. 1. Scrum Master: Role or Title? A Job Like No Other Presented by Mariya Breyter at Agile/Lean Practitioners Meetup, New York, May 2013
    2. 2. Topics 1.Role 2. Qualities 3. Career path Source:
    3. 3. Who is a Scrum Master? “The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum values, practices, and rules. The Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team and the organization adopt Scrum. The Scrum Master teaches the Scrum Team by coaching and by leading it to be more productive and produce higher quality products. The Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team understand and use self-organization and cross-functionality. The Scrum Master also helps the Scrum Team do its best in an organizational environment that may not yet be optimized for complex product development. When the Scrum Master helps make these changes, this is called “removing impediments.” The Scrum Master’s role is one of a servant-leader for the Scrum Team.” - Ken Schwaber,
    4. 4. A Scrum Master is…
    5. 5. “An excellent Scrum Master requires a set of skills similar to that of a line manager, plus the ability and willingness to work as servant leader and coach. Nevertheless, the Scrum Master role is seen as a career path by few.” - Frank Janish, CTO of Crealytics and a former Scrum Master “What do you mean “scrum master career progression”? Scrum master IS a career.” - Jeff Sutherland, Signatoree of Agile Manifesto
    6. 6. “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea” Antoine de Saint Exupéry Source:
    7. 7. Think of the Scrum Master as a race car mechanic… * 11/13/13 08:50 PM P. 7
    8. 8. Scrum Master vs. Project Manager 1 2 Source: 11/13/13 08:50 PM P. 8
    9. 9. 1.Role 2. Qualities 3. Career path Source:
    10. 10. What makes an excellent Scrum Master? SKILLS -people skills, team building, and team development; -management skills including change management; -expertise in Agile and in IT delivery - presentation/coaching/rhetoric - honesty, integrity, respect from the team, and the trust; - understands people and teams, their motivations, interactions, and weaknesses; - understands organization is a whole system and leads the changes; - leads and supports people to change, etc. etc, RESPONSIBILITIES - ensures that the team meets business objectives; - creates a collaborative environment where a Scrum team can work efficiently and the business can deliver high-quality products quickly; - identifies and leads the impediments-solving process; - organizes and facilitates team ceremonies; - Garners respect from the team and leads the team towards hyperproductivity; promotes selfmanagement and self-improvement to grow team efficiency and velocity, etc. etc.
    11. 11. •What is Scrum Master: role, job, or dedication? •How to find/hire? •How to develop? •How to grow?
    12. 12. 1.Role 2. Qualities 3. Career Path Source:
    13. 13. What do others think about Scrum Career Path? 11/13/13 08:50 PM P. 13
    14. 14. Scrum certifications have levels too 11/13/13 08:50 PM P. 14
    15. 15. Role or Dedicated Position? Source: 11/13/13 08:50 PM P. 15
    16. 16. What’s in it for the organization? The goals are to: •set up expectations for future hires • provide input into performance assessment for current employees •grow talent by setting clear targets and the ways to reach those •increase satisfaction metrics by compensating employees fairly in accordance with their work
    17. 17. What’s in it for Scrum Masters? • Have a career progression clearly defined • Provide a clear growth goal and set expectations accordingly • Suggest steps and measures for professional development • Position Scrum Master job as a career, not just as a stepping stone in career growth • Indicate the level of experience of a scrum master
    18. 18. Tasks: -is a Scrum Master on one or two medium or large teams; -performs work independently; -participates/volunteers within scrum master community; -performs all tasks in accordance with KTP Scrum Master role description. -team(s) follow all Agile principles and meet commitment for over 70% of their sprints. Experience and skills: -1-5 years of SM experience; -thoroughly understands software delivery process, -possesses subject matter expertise in teams’ products, -possesses CSM or relevant certification (preferable); -participates in Agile community, -attends external Agile events and shared Agile best practices with others. Tasks: -is a Scrum Master on two medium – size Agile teams or one consolidated team; -Performs all tasks in accordance with KTP Scrum Master role description; -builds a self-organizing and highperforming team which meets commitment 90% of sprints; -suggests solutions to complex issues with multiple teams involved; -- garners respect within the scrum master community. Experience and skills: -3-7 years of SM experience; All skills of SM plus: -superb decision making skills, consensus building, communication and facilitation skills; -possesses CSM, CSP or PMI-ACP certification (preferable); -contributes to agile practices within and outside of Kaplan; -expert-level knowledge of SBU products. Tasks: -coaches other scrum masters in Scrum best practices; All tasks of Sr. SM plus: -defines agile practices within and outside of Kaplan; -performs Agile training as needed with over 80% satisfaction rate; -drives complex cross-term issues to effective resolution. Experience and skills: -5+years of Agile experience and 1+ year of mentoring/coaching; All skills of Sr. SM plus: -consulting and/or training experience, -ability to build consensus and explain Agile values to the teams, -possesses CSP, PMI-ACP, or related certification; -positive attitude and ability to propose effective solutions.
    19. 19. Growth from one level to the next one Scrum Master Sr. Scrum Master Agile Coach Team size one or two medium or large teams; two medium -size Agile teams or one consolidated team; all Agile team members at KTP and business stakeholders interested in Agile practices Proficiency in Agile/scrum performs all tasks in accordance with KTP Scrum Master role description advanced knowledge of scrum master best practices and implementation on teams expert in Agile / scrum (“ha” or “ri” level) Mentorship performs work independently and participates in setting best practices mentors junior-level scrum masters and leads setting up best practices at KTP coaches other scrum masters in Scrum best practices Experience 1-5 years of SM experience 3-7 years of SM experience 5+years of SM experience and 1+ year of mentoring/coaching Certifications and training CSM or related certification strongly preferred CSM or CSPO certification required, CSP or PMI-ACP certification preferred possesses CSP, PMI-ACP, or related certification
    20. 20. Scrum Master Career Path
    21. 21. What is important then? Photo by Marissa Textor
    22. 22. Thank you for your feedback Please share your feedback at or post Comments at my blog at:
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